We all wish that our cinema heroes lead their best lives, but that's not always the case. Bela Lugosi is one such person that reached the pinnacle of popularity in 1931's Dracula, but had difficulties with typecasting, the studio system, financial woes, and addiction. Lugosi's complex professional and personal life is captured in Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood's Dracula and I recently had a chance to catch up with Koren Shadmi to learn about his experience researching Lugosi and creating this graphic novel.

Growing up, what was your experience with watching Dracula and other films, featuring Bela Lugosi?

To be perfectly honest, I did not grow up watching any of the old Universal movies. I'm originally from Israel, and it was kind of hard to come by those movies; they never ran on TV and were rarely in theaters. In my early twenties I started watching some horror flicks but it was more like Dario Argento and Mario Bava. My only exposure to Lugosi was through listening to Bauhaus's 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' and seeing it in 'The Hunger.' While working on this book I dove deeply into the 'golden age of horror' area of the 30s and 40s, and I was not disappointed.

What inspired you to make Lugosi the subject of your latest graphic novel?

It started on a trip I took upstate with my wife; we were listening to the podcast ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class’ while driving about Lugosi's life. I think she fell asleep but I was hooked. I was struck by what a rollercoaster Lugosi’s life was. It seemed very dramatic and vivid, so I made a note to look into it. After my Rod Serling biography came out, Humanoids asked me what’s next. I sent them a list of three options, and we all agreed that Lugosi would make the best book.

It seems like a significant amount of research went into this project. What was the most surprising or interesting thing that you discovered while researching Bela Lugosi?

I was really surprised by Lugosi's freewheeling lifestyle, he really lived for the day and never thought of tomorrow. That kind of lifestyle is so foreign to me, I'm always so cautious with everything from my spending to my alcohol intake, I think if Lugosi ever met me at a party he would probably think that I was quite a 'wet blanket.' I think Lugosi's wild lifestyle was also his downfall; when he ran out of money and got hooked on drugs, it was just so sad to see someone who is a legend, forgotten by his industry.

Given the popularity and love for Lugosi, what was the most challenging aspect of telling and drawing this story?

Lugosi has a lot of positive aspects to his personality, he was funny, warm, a super dedicated and serious actor, and obviously incredibly talented. But he had a lot of flaws too, which just makes him more of a human to me. I know some fans would rather just keep him in their mind as the debonair count but I think you have to bring forth the good with the bad, and show a complete portrait of the man. I don't want it to be fan service.

Aside from Dracula, what is your favorite Lugosi film or performance and why?

My favorite Lugosi flick is 'The Black Cat', it’s the ultimate Lugosi / Karloff showdown, it’s very beautiful visually with these amazing art deco sets and outfits. Lugosi definitely wins this one, he gives his usual over the top performance compared to Karloff. Highly recommended.

Having spent so much time researching this period of Hollywood and horror films, do you have interest in tackling any other horror actors for a future graphic novel?

Who knows? I was thinking about doing a companion book for this one about Boris Karloff, but I'm not sure his life is quite as interesting. He was also very reserved and uptight, which doesn't make for a great biography usually. Lugosi called him 'a cold fish.' We will see what the future holds, there's lots of great stories out there.


"Humanoids will publish the gripping biography LUGOSI on September 28, 2021, just in time for the spooky season." You can take a look at preview pages and cover art below!

"This fall, Humanoids, the publisher of some of the world’s most iconic and groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy graphic novels, will publish LUGOSI: THE RISE AND FALL OF HOLLYWOOD’S DRACULA by award-winning cartoonist Koren Shadmi.  The biography will chronicle the tumultuous personal and professional life of horror icon Bela Lugosi. The book will be Shadmi's second collaboration with Humanoids in the media biography space after The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television, which came out in 2019. LUGOSI will be published under Humanoids’ Life Drawn imprint, which showcases diverse voices and slice of life stories from different points of view.

LUGOSI, the tragic life story of one of horror’s most iconic film stars, tells of a young Hungarian activist forced to flee his homeland after the failed Communist revolution in 1919. Reinventing himself in the U.S., first on stage and then in movies, he landed the unforgettable role of Count Dracula in what would become a series of classic feature films. From that point forward, Lugosi’s stardom would be assured… but with international fame came setbacks and addictions that gradually whittled his reputation from icon to has-been. LUGOSI details the actor’s fall from grace and an enduring legacy that continues to this day."